On Friday April 13th, 2018 torrential rains began falling on Kaua’i, by the end of the weekend, the Garden Isle endured more than 50” of rainfall, bringing down hillsides, collapsing roads and washing away homes. The flood damage so significant that Governor David Ige and Mayor Bernard Carvalho declared a state of emergency as several feet of flood waters remained in several parts of the island. The National Guard was sent in to aid local rescue officials and so far there are over 400 people were evacuated by helicopters and many by sea. As the island continues to focus on its long-term rebuilding efforts, residents on the North Shore past Hanalei are still cut off from access with the only road in to town closed for rebuilding.
Immediately, OluKai met with local ambassadors to better understand the situation and formulate a plan to help. One of the highest priorities was to equip local community members with the gear needed to dig out of the flood debris, footwear was in demand and OluKai responded by sending 450 pairs of water proof boots and training shoes to be distributed to the local community. In addition, we heard of three lifeguards who’d lost or had their homes damaged, yet tirelessly continued to serve those in need. OluKai redirected some of their race registration fees of the 2018 Ho’olaule’a in Maui to the Kaua’i Lifeguard Association to directly support the guards’ rebuilding efforts.
At OluKai’s annual Ho’olaule’a event, the Monday following the races is always dedicated to a work day. This year several team members traveled to Kaua’i to directly help the rebuilding efforts. On Monday, April 30th, the OluKai team met with local aid teams, as well as members of O’ahu’s Pili Group (locally sourced catering group led by Chef Gooch), and traveled by truck and off-road vehicles from Hanalei into the heart of the flood’s impact zone on Kauai’s North Shore. During the 12-mile journey, much of which inside the landslide riddled section of Kuhio Highway, currently off by the Department of Land and Natural Resources, the team saw Mother Nature’s raw power first hand. Houses torn off their foundations, 1-ton trucks upside down, deep craters in the sides of Kauai’s majestic cliff sides- a result of thousands of tons of earth matter that all came crashing down on the valleys below.
The team met with the caretakers of Limahuli Garden and Preserve, a 1000-acre of raw beauty in one of the last functioning ahupua’a, Hāʻena. Limahuli is one of the most biodiverse places in the world, home to dozens of endangered plants and first found nowhere else. It is also arguably one of the most physically beautiful places in the world with a magnificently lush garden, featuring ancient agricultral terracing and a traditional thatched community hale, only to be outdone by the sharp cliffs jutting upwards from each side of the garden, it is clear these are the protectors of the place.
Kawika Winter, Director of Limahuli Garden, briefed the team of 30 volunteers, that the immediate goal is to repair 1500 feet of irrigation line that was displaced during the flood. The dismantled pipe currently lay in the bottom of the creek bed, it was to be elevated 50-to-100 feet up the steep, muddy and tree lined valley walls and repositioned at the upstream put in. The ravine is so steep and geologically sensitive that no machines are allowed inside, so the work was to be done by hand. Much of the crew had met for the first time earlier that morning, but quickly learned to work together as a team, necessary to leverage the many hands required to safely move the long and heavy pipe in these rugged conditions. The chants of “I kū mau mau!” enabled the team to move in harmony, yet also nurtured the ancestral ties to Limahuli. By the afternoon, the team had successfully repositioned the entire irrigation line and used an 'ō'ō (digging stick) to secure the water input. As the water once again quenched the thirst of the garden, the valley was adorned with the sounds of “chee-hoo” and the celebratory splashes of a cooling dip into the cold pools of the creek.
The team hiked back to Limahuli Gardens home office and were greeted by a traditional feast prepared by Chef Gooch of Pili Group. Each item on the menu featured a modern take on a traditional meal, all of the ingredients locally sourced. The team found themselves reflecting on the work completed today, but couldn’t avoid the nearly consuming thoughts of the rebuilding work that remains for many communities in Kaua’i. If you would like to help in Limahuli’s recovery visit their website at https://ntbg.org/gardens/limahuli/flood, and to support general relief efforts on Kauaʻi visit Hawaiian Community Foundation at https://www.hawaiicommunityfoundation.org/kauairelief. #KokuaKauai